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Total Pain

Total Pain

The founder of the hospice movement in the UK was Dame Cicely Saunders, (1918 – 2005). She was an English nurse, social worker, physician and writer. Noted for her work in terminal care research and in emphasising the importance of palliative care in modern medicine, she introduced the idea of total pain. This communicates how an individual’s pain can be a whole overwhelming experience, not only physical but also emotional, social and spiritual.

Recently I met a patient at the hospice, who, in a very natural way, sharing the pain of his situation, demonstrated all four pains that Cicely Saunders describes.   We shall call him Andy. First, he showed me his swollen upper arm, and told me he had come to the hospice for symptom control of the tremendous paid from the tumour there.  He moved very gingerly to avoid triggering any physical pain in his swollen arm.

He then became very tearful as he described how his girlfriend, of eight years, came to see him when he was in hospital.  “She was very cold,” he said, “and told me she didn’t want to be with me anymore, that she couldn’t accompany me through the cancer”.   Andy wept as he remembered the emotional pain of being rejected by her.

Andy then told me he had always been the life and soul of the party, and at his place of work. Now, being this way, was difficult for him. When he shut the door at home, he often felt overcome by utter loneliness.   Andy was describing to me, the social pain he was in, isolated from the life he knew and loved.

Andy went on to tell me about his former wife who had died some time ago.  In his despair of missing her, he had gone to see medium. She spontaneously described in detail, his wife wearing a red coat, that was the exact coat she wore when she was alive.  Andy found this astonishing, and in telling me about it, he became very tearful again.  He was describing a spiritual pain in his loss and in the mystery of what happens after death.

Andy thanked me for listening and appeared more relaxed through being able to talk freely about the different levels of his suffering.  I told him it was an honour that he entrusted me with his stories.  As Quietude® practitioners we can work alongside the medical staff who work tirelessly to relieve the physical pain their patients suffer.  Through sharing the burden of emotional, social, or spiritual pain, sometimes, the physical pain becomes easier to bear as well.

With other patients, especially those with faith in some kind of higher power, God, or the great spirit of Love, or their angel, I have often found that summarising their story and placing their pain in the lap of a loving presence can really help to alleviate or put into perspective their experience of total pain.  In Andy’s case, being heard was enough that day.

Annie Blampied-Radojcin – Quietude® Founder and Course Leader

If you interested are in deepening your ability to offer spiritual and emotional support to those with a life-limiting illness or those in need of end-of-life care you may wish to join us for Quietude® – a unique training program that empowers people to become true soul companions to those on the threshold of death.  You can find more details about the course here.